An Old Man and His Grandson

Ghiralandaio, Domenico

Primary Category: Visual Arts / Painting/Drawing

Genre: Tempera and oil on wood panel

Annotated by:
Winkler, Mary
  • Date of entry: Feb-27-1998
  • Last revised: Jan-25-1999


In the Renaissance double portrait (c. 1480), an elderly man and a young boy gaze into each other's eyes. The old man is wearing a vermilion robe which gives his presence a vivid solidity. The child, painted in profile, rests his hand on one arm of the man whose other arm embraces him. The warmth of the orangey red is complemented by the cool gray-green wall behind the pair. A window opens the wall, revealing a peaceful sky and a distant mountainous landscape.


This is an intimate picture, small in scale and tender in subject matter. Like many Renaissance portraits it is a family record--a picture of generations. So loving is the gaze between grandfather and the child that the viewer is unaware that the grandfather's portrait was made after his death. The vista opening in the night may have spiritual significance, suggesting both a journey into the future and continuity.


This painting is very well known and available in many books on Renaissance Art.

Primary Source

Musée du Louvre, Paris